Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Montana Primary election results -- a preliminary roundup and branding

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Well, it’s Wednesday, and time for a little Montana politics...

Yesterday was the big day, and the results aren’t final (scroll to the bottom for any updates,) but we’ll make our comments based on the preliminary results. Let’s take it from the top.

U.S. President: As expected, both President Obama and Gov. Romney coasted to easy victories in the Montana primary. Both races are already long over, as they always are here with our June selection date, the exceptions being last year’s Democratic race between then Sens. Obama and Clinton, and the 1976 contest between Pres. Ford and Gov. Reagan.

The interesting points to note are that Gov Romney failed to outperform Sen. McCain’s 2008 performance and that Congressman Ron Paul failed to get as high a percentage as he did in that same election. To be fair, in 2008 it was a head-to-head race between just the two of them, so Paul got all of the non-McCain vote (and McCain got all of the non-Ron Paul vote,) whereas the 32% of Montana Republicans who wanted someone other than Romney had to split up their votes between 4 candidates.

All in all, a solid performance by Romney, one that leaves no doubt that he will have no problem carrying the state in the fall, barring some sort of unlikely meltdown. The real question that is left is whether Romney has his ground game lined up for the Montana GOP convention -- as with many GOP primaries around the country, this primary is a mere “beauty contest.” Even though Paul carried only 12% of the vote, if his forces are well-organized, they could still make a run at capturing the state convention and hence the delegates. We suspect that Romney, unlike the hapless McCain campaign of 4 years ago, has this matter long sewn up, but we shall see.

U.S. Senate: Also as expected, Sen. Tester and Congressman Rehberg won their respective primaries easily. Rehberg’s 75% exceeds Romney’s 68% comfortably, so if there are anything to read in the tea-leaves here, it is that the size of the GOP electorate that is in the mood to vote against the front runner is somewhere around 25-30% -- fairly typical for us cantankerous Republicans. RealClearPolitics has this race as a toss-up, and we have a long slog ahead of us before the contours of the race will become clear. The MH prediction is a narrow win for Rehberg -- he has campaigned and won multiple statewide elections to Tester’s one, and the state is leaning rightward again these days.

U.S. Congress: Steve Daines won the GOP nod easily, as expected, with a comfortable 70% of the vote, again, slightly outpacing Gov. Romney’s total. His opponent appears to be state Sen. Kim Gillan of Billings, who has won a 7-way Democratic primary. At the risk of jinxing the good man, this should be a win for Daines in the fall, assuming he stays the course and runs a solid campaign.

Governor: Former U.S. Congressman Rick Hill appears to have won a 7-way primary to win the GOP nomination. It is a familiar story out of the playbook from 8 years ago, when 3 conservative candidates from Yellowstone County split the vote, allowing Sec. State Bob Brown (a more moderate candidate) to win.

Like Brown in 2008, Rick Hill has been painted as the “moderate “ candidate in this race, even though his positions on the issues seem to be pretty conventionally conservative. His two major opponents (Ken Miller and Corey Stapleton) have been portrayed as the more conservative candidates -- their vote totals combined roughly equal Hill’s.

We have refrained from commenting on the GOP gubernatorial primary (as we generally do with primaries,) but as far as we’re concerned, Rick Hill is a great candidate to end up with. He is what is commonly referred to as a “high-quality candidate,” having won prior statewide races for U.S. Congress, having good name recognition, being well-spoken, and having the connections and organizational ability to raise significant sums of money. We’ll take him enthusiastically. His opponent will of course be Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock -- who is also a high-quality candidate for the Democrats, and for the same reasons.

Land board races: The value of name-recognition helps a lot. It is hard on one to lose statewide races, but even a losing campaign builds name recognition (cf. Gov. Schweitzer). Such is the case with the AG race, where the losing 2008 candidate, Tim Fox, appears to have won the race with Jim Shockley of open-container fame. On the Secretary of State race side, Brad Johnson has won the election comfortably, gaining the opportunity for a rematch of the 2008 race with Linda McCulloch.

PSC Commissioner:

Kirk Bushman is comfortably defeating Al Garver. Good for him. Former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley will be challenging him. District 2 was designed as a safe GOP seat on the PSC, but this year it looks to be a doozey.

Elsewhere, the inimitable Roger Koopman looks to have won his 3-way primary. It is hard enough to win elections under the of best of circumstances -- and the nomination of Koopman does not create the best circumstances for the GOP.

State Supreme Court: As of this writing, Ed Sheehy and Judge Laurie McKinnon are the two who are likely to advance, but it is still too close to call, with all three candidates neck-and-neck. Certainily hope that McKinnon makes it. We had planned to run an update on the Supreme Court race and specifically the question of Best playing fast and loose with trying to hide her partisan political contributions, with a little help from the Helena IR. But if as it appears, Best will finish 3rd, then it will be irrelevant.


And for the two greatest pieces of news of the night, Gov. Scott Walker easily defeated the forces of public-union darkness in Wisconsin, and the Boston Celtics held back the forces of basketball darkness in Miami to take a 3-2 lead in the series. The boys in green have the chance to close it out at home in the Garden Thursday night. As some blog-posting Celtics fans have been putting it -- it may be the home of the Heat in South Beach, but “Winter is Coming...”


Update: Jesse Laslovich has conceded to Pam Bucy in the Democratic race for AG. A few years ago, we would have assumed that Laslovich, a rising star for the Democrats, would have won a race like this walking away. Based on what we’ve read of the two, we would rather have had the more moderate Laslovich than Bucy as AG, but Bucy’s more hard-line approach may be a harder sell to the center-right majority in Montana. It is always hard for a Republican to win the AG race, but it is possible that Tim Fox’s job just got a little easier.

Update: Judge Laurie McKinnon’s lead over Elizabeth Best has grown to more than 3000 votes, with only 5 precincts not reporting. This race is over, and Ed Sheehy and Judge McKinnon will be facing off in the fall for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court. Congratulations to them both, and good luck to Judge McKinnon.

1 comment:

Steve said...

In the Supreme Court race, don't discount Ed Sheehy. Sure, he was born in Butte and lives in Missoula, but he is not a raging granola eating Lefty. In fact, his almost encyclopedic knowledge of case law will be a real asset.
He did support me in my run for the Legislature in 2008, so he is not adverse to Republicans.